New data from a Scandinavian study of the cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins suggests that they work in the long term, toonot just for a few years.
What the researchers wanted to know: Do statins have any surprising effects past the five- or six-year mark, when most trials end?
What they did: The Scandinavian Simvastatin Survival Study, which began in 1988, provided some of the earliest data on the benefits of statins. After it ended in 1994, the researchers decided to continue following up on the original patients, who'd been randomly assigned to take simvastatin (Zocor) or placebo for the length of the trial. The follow-up extended for five more years, until Aug. 1, 1999. The researchers used national registers in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden to find out who had died and how.
What they found: Patients who'd taken simvastatin during the five-year trial were still better off five years after the trial ended. (In this case, "better off" means "more likely to be alive.") There was a very smallso small as to be statistically insignificantreduction in cancers in the patients who'd been assigned to statins.
What the study means to you: Statins seem to be helpful in the long term. That's not a big surprise, but it's good to have data.
Caveats: Most of the patients who'd originally taken a placebo were on statins during the five-year follow-up period, which is good for them but makes it harder to tell the difference between them and the patients who'd taken Zocor.
Find out more: Information on simvastatin (Zocor) from Medline
Read the article: Strandberg, T.E., et al. "Mortality and Incidence of Cancer During 10-Year Follow-Up of the Scandinavian Simvastatin Survival Study (4S)." The Lancet. Aug. 28, 2004, Vol. 364, pp. 771777.
Abstract online: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov